Sweet Gum – Liquidambar styraciflua

Sweet Gum
Sweet Gum

These trees are often found on wet, often inundated land…surprise me when we moved onto this piece of property to find the drive flanked by two large Sweet Gums! Our first sign of trouble, it turns out we are often inundated, whenever it rains, the land here holds water.

In 1651 F. Hernandez published his work in which we find the earliest mention of this tree. He describes it as a large tree with a fragrant gum. Sweet Gum was introduced to Europe in 1681 by John Banister (missionary collector), he planted it at the palace gardens in Fulham (the home of the Bishop’s of London).

American Storax is the gum exudate of the Sweet Gum or Red Gum tree. It is used for perfume, tobacco additives, pharmaceuticals, and adhesives. The resinous balsam is yellow, opaque, and honey like in consistency. It is secreted from the sapwood when the bark is incised deeply enough to reach the wood in the trunk or the branches.

Medicinally Storax has been used as an expectorant, to treat parasitic infections, Sweet Gum leaves used to treat diarrhea, and to treat sore throat. The Storax was applied topically to sores and wounds. Today it is utilized mostly as an ingredient in compound tincture of Benzoin; which is used as a topical skin protectant.

American Sweet Gum trees from Eastport, New York, plus additional locations in Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and other east coast locations are being planted in the Memorial Grove at the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City.

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